How to match answers to improve learning effectiveness

Learning Method

This section explains how to study to achieve your goals in an efficient manner.
Continuing from the previous article, we will introduce how to use tests to learn.
Previously, we introduced the following information.
Efficient learning methods using test effects

  • If you use the test effect when reviewing, you can improve your score efficiently.
  • When reviewing, just reading the textbook or notes is not enough to keep in mind.
  • If you have a quiz to review, leave some space between quizzes.
  • You can stop giving quizzes when you can understand what you have learned.
  • The effects of quizzes can be surprisingly long-lasting.
  • For quizzes, simply recalling the answers in your mind can help.

In this article, we will introduce how to match answers to the questions to further improve the effectiveness of the test.

The way you answer the questions will change the effectiveness of your learning.

Have you ever heard of multiple-choice testing?
A multiple-choice test means, for example, “What is the capital of the U.S. state of California? Choose the name of the city from 1 to 4 below.
In other words, it is a type of question where you have to choose the correct answer from multiple answers written in the question.
If you use this type of question and give yourself a quiz for review, there is a little secret to matching the answers.

How do you answer the questions?
Let's say you have a multiple-choice test with, say, 42 questions.
After I finish solving all these questions, I may put them all together at the end to answer the questions.
Or you might match the answers one question at a time.

Intuitively, I don't see much difference in either way of answering the question.
However, the following research shows that how students answer the questions after a multiple-choice test can change their score on the final test.
Butler, A.C. & Roediger III, H. L. (2008) Feedback enhances the positive effects and reduces the negative effects of multiple-choice testing.

Experimental Methods

The participants in the experiment (72 American college students) first studied about history.
The participants in the experiment were then divided into four groups.

Group 1I'm not reviewing anything.
Group 2Review with multiple-choice test (42 questions), but do not check answers.
Group 3Match your answers after each multiple-choice test.
Group 4Complete all multiple-choice tests and then check your answers.

One week later, each group conducted a final test.
The final test was not a multiple-choice test, but a written test with the correct answers.

experimental results

Group 4 got the highest score on the final test.

The test effect was still powerful.

The lowest performance was in Group 1, which did not review due to quizzes.
The next lowest was Group 2, which did the multiple-choice quiz as a review but did not check their answers.

However, it should be noted that Group 2 scored three times higher than Group 1, who did not take the quiz, even though they did not check their answers.
The “test effect,” or the effectiveness of the quiz as a review, is well demonstrated.

The effect of answer matching cannot be underestimated.

So what was the best way to answer the question?
Group 4, who checked all the answers at the end, did better on the final test than Group 3, who checked the correct answers after each question.
In other words, the results showed that matching should be done at the end of the day.

Is it better to do the answer matching right away? Or is it better to give it some time?

This brings us back to the question. What would the results be if elementary school students participated in the experiment?
Does the effect change with age?
And what would happen if the experiment was conducted in a real classroom during class?
If one participant tries all the experimental conditions, would it still be advantageous to answer the questions late, i.e., all together at the end?
Or do the effects vary from person to person?

Here are some studies that have been done to answer these questions.
Look at the following experiment.
Metcalfe, J., Kornell, N., & Finn, B.(2009) Delayed versus immediate feedback in children's and adults' vocabulary learning.
The participants in this experiment in the U.S. were sixth graders, and it was conducted in a classroom during regular class hours.
Each experimental participant participated in all three conditions related to answer matching.

  • Condition 1: No matching of answers
  • Condition 2: Answer the questions immediately.
  • Condition 3: Answer the questions afterwards.

Experimental Methods

The experimental participants (27 American 6th graders) first studied the meaning of difficult words. Word sets A, B, and C each contained 24 words. After the study, they were immediately given a quiz (multiple-choice test). The participants were divided into three groups: the first group did not check their answers, the second group checked their answers immediately, and the third group took some time to check their answers. The experiment lasted for one week, with a final test on the wrong words at the end.

experimental results

In the final test, the highest scores were for the words that were answered late.

The effects of distributed learning were also seen in this experiment.

I got the best grade on the final test under the condition that I would answer the questions late.
Considering the results of the previous experiment, it can be said that the final test is more effective if the multiple choice questions are answered last.

There are two reasons why this is more effective than answering the questions right away.
One of them is the effect of “distributed learning” as explained in “Review Techniques.
In other words, if you are going to study the same subject, it is more efficient to do it after a while rather than continuously.
This is exactly the kind of decentralized learning that we are talking about when we say we will check our answers later.
When you combine the test effect with the dispersion effect, it becomes the most powerful way to review.
See also the following articles on reviewing.

Another reason is that delaying the matching gives you time to forget the wrong answer you chose in a multiple choice question.
This makes the answer matching more effective.

What you need to know in order to study efficiently

  • Just delaying answering quizzes for review will help.
  • By delaying the answering process, the effect of “distributed learning” can be achieved.
  • The combination of “test effect” and “distributed learning” is the most powerful study method.
  • Review quizzes are effective, even if you don't have to check your answers.
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